Author Archive

McConnnell Lies - SCHIP Lives!

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has SCHIt on his shoes, but unfortunately the smell hasn’t caught the noses of much of the mainstream press - yet.

The story behind this story is not new in a couple of ways. It is the story of Graeme Frost, the 12 year old boy who gave the Democratic response to the Sept. 29 Bush radio address in which Bush explained his sleazy, politically motivated, ultra-cynical veto of the SCHIP bill. and was Swift Boated by the rabid Right rabblers like “What a Rush” Limbaugh, Bill O’Lielly, Michele Schmalken, and Sean Hackkity. These smarmy smearers alleged that somehow the boy’s story was not true and that his family made more money than they needed to care for him. This turned out to be untrue - and a certain Senator knew this and lied about it anyway.

This is becoming big news in Kentucky.

From the Louisville The Courier-Journal…

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell knew last week — at a time when he was denying it — that his staff had sent e-mails encouraging reporters to look into the background of a 12-year-old boy used by Democrats to support expansion of a health-care program.

In an interview Friday with WHAS-TV reporter Mark Hebert, the Kentucky Republican said his staff had not been involved in trying to push reporters to look into the financial situation of the boy’s family.

But McConnell’s communications director, Don Stewart, said in an interview Monday with The Courier-Journal that he had told McConnell about the Oct. 8 e-mails sometime around Thursday, the day before the interview with Hebert.

Stewart also said, however, that he had told the senator he had sent follow-up e-mails within a matter of hours warning reporters off of the story because “the family is legit.”

… Stewart said he informed McConnell of his personal role in the matter around Thursday.

The next day, Friday, Hebert asked McConnell about the e-mails. The exchange was broadcast Sunday night and again last evening.

Hebert asked the senator whether his office was attempting to get reporters to look into Frost’s background.

“No,” McConnell answered.

The senator was then asked, “What was the deal with the e-mail from your staffer?”

McConnell replied: “There was no involvement whatsoever.”

… Stewart said the first blogs, questioning whether the Frosts qualified financially for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, appeared Oct. 6, two days before he sent out his first e-mail to reporters.

…”The blogs started this story on Oct. 6 — two days before I pointed it out and spiked it. This story started and ended in the blogs,” Stewart wrote. “I told reporters there was ‘no story.’ I told Sen. McConnell that I spiked the story. That is 100 percent accurate.”

Just how many of the sleazy right wing pundits knew they were peddling lies about the family is probably unknowable and really isn’t all that important. But if the Senate Minority Leader was smearing the family, knew they were lying, and then lied about that? That’s grounds for a lawsuit - and the careening of McConnell’s career.

Here’s McConnell’s website. Write him, call him, email him, fax him - tell him what a dick he is.

JMJ

The Fatal MLB Overdose?

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

Maybe.

It’s appropriate that I’m writing this on an NFL Sunday, the NFL being the number one sport in America. Baseball was the most popular sport for generations, but was surpassed by football some time ago. A Harris Poll taken in 2005 summed it up this way:

In the past 20 years, professional football and baseball have seen the most dramatic changes in popularity. Since 1985, professional football has risen nine points in popularity (from 24% to 33%), while baseball has dropped the same amount (23% to 14%). The next largest change in popularity is in auto racing, which has risen six points since 1985, from five to 11 percent. Men’s tennis has seen a drop in popularity of four points in this same time period down to one percent from five percent in 1985.

So what happened? Some say that American culture has coarsened, and with that comes a preference for action and contact, as opposed to the “gentleman’s” pursuit of baseball. But to know football is to know a few things that it’s detractors can’t seem to figure out:

1. Football is really more like a game of chess than a pure contact sport. The game has been designed in such a way as to promote strategy over brute force. Each position has boundaries and responsibilities, each requiring a different skill set and mental and physical attributes. More than any other sport, football presents an opportunity for almost every type of person to play, and that gets to this…

2. There is no team sport that centers on the team more than football. On both sides of the ball, in all the different positions and duties, football is more truly a team sport than any other, and this gets to another aspect of football…

3. In every way, football is the most egalitarian and communal of all sports. It requires a selflessness on the part of every player, coach, and owner that surpasses every other sport. Teams share their revenues, evenly cap their roster salaries, and dole out draft picks to the worst teams first. And this gets to the next point…

4: Football, like basketball, by utilizing a collegiate draft system, encourages a university education, and since the colleges have cleaned up there acts, the players have become more and more cerebral and educated, responsible and self-sufficient beyond just the game. And we have some real heroes to thank for that…

5. The NFL has been run by the finest finest managers and administrators of any other sport. Pete Rozelle, Paul Tagliabue, and now Roger Goodell are the finest commissioners any sport has ever known. Modern professional football as we know it can thank Rozelle in particular for the NFL’s success. He brought us the united AFL and NFL, caps, comp, rules and regs that make football the great egalitarian sport that it is. Later, Tagliabue brought us the strictest drug testing and personal conduct rules of any professional sport, which Goodell continues today. And that gets to the next point…

6. Baseball has failed at all these things.

Baseball has suffered disfavor with the general public for many years now. From the strikes, to the ridiculous salaries, to the outrageous profits, rising ticket prices, extreme disparity of wealth among the teams, an endless season, has come a distaste for the sport (I lost interest after the first strike in the early 80’s). Now comes the steroid scandal, and it’s about to get a lot worse…

“Commissioner Bud Selig said on Friday night that representatives of the 30 Major League owners had been briefed via a conference call earlier in the day about the state of the investigation being run by former Sen. George Mitchell into Major League Baseball’s steroid era. A report is due by the end of the year. …

The Commissioner, in town for the game and on his way to Boston on Saturday, said a story Friday regarding the call published by ESPN.com was off-base. The Web site, quoting an unnamed source, said that Mitchell’s report is going to be “salacious” and “would include many names — names which have so far not been disclosed publicly, and the names of well-known players.”

At some point, even the most die-hard MLB fan will be hard pressed to patronize a sport teaming (pun intended) with rabid selfishness, cheating and cannibalization. It’s time for baseball to reform. It’s time for a serious crackdown on cheating (re: steroid abuse). It’s time for true profit-sharing. It’s time to move the sport into the colleges all the way, or at least to separate the minors from the majors and implement a draft system with that. It’s time for salary caps. If baseball does not bring these changes soon, it will die. It fall to some ignominious spot on the list of our favorite pastimes, forever scorned for the disappoint it has brought to us.

But maybe none of that matters. After all, baseball is a waste of green space on par with golf (the pan ultimate patrician waste of time and land). Baseball is boring as all hell.

JMJ

“You kill a dog, you go to jail - you kill a little black boy and nothing happens.”

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

So said the lawyer for the family of Martin Lee Anderson, the 14 year old who died at the hands - and boots - of the Florida boot camp instructors who were acquitted yesterday on charges related to the beating-death incident. Oh, and yes, the jury was all white. This will not be the last we hear of this.

“No government agency is able to say how many children have died at boot camps or wilderness programs.”

The GAO has completed an investigation into these teen “boot camps” for troubled teens. Here’s a few incidents they uncovered as per USA Today…

•A 15-year-old date-rape victim from California enrolled in a 9-week wilderness program in Utah in 1990 to build her self-confidence, her parents said.

•A month later in Utah, a 16-year-old Florida girl struggling with drug abuse died of heat stroke while hiking during a 9-week wilderness program. The program brochure described “days and nights of physical and mental stress with forced march, night hikes and limited food and water.” …

•In March 1994, two former employees of that camp opened a new program in Utah. That’s where Aaron Bacon died from an acute infection that went untreated for nearly three weeks. He had been sent to the camp because of minor drug use and poor grades. …

•A 15-year-old Oregon boy died at an Oregon wilderness program in September 2000 of a severed neck artery. The boy had refused to return to the camp site after a group hike. Two staffers held him face down for almost 45 minutes in an attempt to bring him under control. The death was ruled a homicide, but a grand jury did not issue an indictment.

Thousands of abuse allegations have been leveled. Yet of the ten mortality cases investigated by the GAO, only one led to criminal liability. The study showed that staff were poorly trained and vetted, if relevantly trained and vetted at all. Allegations range from torture, to starvation, exposure, incarceration, and torture. Over 1,600 abuse instances were identified, and those just from the only 33 states that report such statistics. These “camps” are privately owned and thus receive little attention from the state governments. Since the Anderson case, Florida has tightened it’s regulations on the camps, and sure enough Florida is down to only one now, and that is soon to close as well. It seems these camps are not up to oversight snuff.

“Tough Love” is an Oxymoron

I have often said that there is no such a thing as “tough love.” Love is not tough. At least, it shouldn’t be. When a woman is in an abusive relationship, her friends will tell her, “Get out! Run away!,” and she will often say, “But he loves me!,” and they will say, “If he loves you, he wouldn’t beat you.” For some reason, we think it’s okay to abuse children, try them adults, put them out on the streets, when we feel they are misbehaving, yet if a husband did that to his wife, she’d have grounds for divorce, if not his arrest. Firstly, privately run detention facilities of any kind should be outright banned, boot camps for youth should be very carefully monitored, and parents should think twice about sending their kids to these places. Secondly, any direction or legal mitigation given by the courts allowing parents to use the boot camp route should also be outright banned. It is a conflict of interest, as it is outside the scope of the government. Finally, it’s time parents learn that there is no such thing as “Tough Love.” Love is never tough.

JMJ

“Liberal Media” Myth Debunked

Monday, September 17th, 2007

Ask a conservative about the news media - press, radio, TV - and most of them will tell you that they have “Liberal Bias.” What is meant by that? Usually, what said conservatives are referring to is the “Main Stream Media,” by which they mean CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, NPR, the NYT and WaPo, among other outlets. They do not include Fox and other Murdock holdings even though Fox News is the most viewed television news outlet in America and has an undeniable bent to the Right. Then there’s the expression “Drive-By Media,” a Rush Limbaugh creation that infers that the media performs mob-like news hits on politicians they don’t like, presumably Republicans. The next question one should ask a conservative as a follow-up to the first would be, “Biased about what?” After all, most news has little to be biased about. Car accidents, fires, murders, and such leave little room for opinion. They simply happen and get reported. If there’s a place for bias, it is in the opinion business - columns, “news” talk radio, and the Sunday “Talking Heads.” Here are three studies about these outlets…

From Media Matters:

Sixty percent of the nation’s daily newspapers print more conservative syndicated columnists every week than progressive syndicated columnists. Only 20 percent run more progressives than conservatives, while the remaining 20 percent are evenly balanced.

In a given week, nationally syndicated progressive columnists are published in newspapers with a combined total circulation of 125 million. Conservative columnists, on the other hand, are published in newspapers with a combined total circulation of more than 152 million.

The top 10 columnists as ranked by the number of papers in which they are carried include five conservatives, two centrists, and only three progressives.

The top 10 columnists as ranked by the total circulation of the papers in which they are published also include five conservatives, two centrists, and only three progressives.

In 38 states, the conservative voice is greater than the progressive voice — in other words, conservative columns reach more readers in total than progressive columns. In only 12 states is the progressive voice greater than the conservative voice.

In three out of the four broad regions of the country — the West, the South, and the Midwest — conservative syndicated columnists reach more readers than progressive syndicated columnists. Only in the Northeast do progressives reach more readers, and only by a margin of 2 percent.

In eight of the nine divisions into which the U.S. Census Bureau divides the country, conservative syndicated columnists reach more readers than progressive syndicated columnists in any given week. Only in the Middle Atlantic division do progressive columnists reach more readers each week.

From the Center for American Progress:

Our analysis in the spring of 2007 of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners reveals that 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive.

Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk—10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.

A separate analysis of all of the news/talk stations in the top 10 radio markets reveals that 76 percent of the programming in these markets is conservative and 24 percent is progressive, although programming is more balanced in markets such as New York and Chicago.

From Media Matters, regarding the Sunday morning talk shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC:

The balance between Democrats/progressives and Republicans/conservatives was roughly equal during Clinton’s second term, with a slight edge toward Republicans/conservatives: 52 percent of the ideologically identifiable guests were from the right, and 48 percent were from the left. But in Bush’s first term, Republicans/ conservatives held a dramatic advantage, outnumbering Democrats/progressives by 58 percent to 42 percent. In 2005, the figures were an identical 58 percent to 42 percent.

Counting only elected officials and administration representatives, Democrats had a small advantage during Clinton’s second term: 53 percent to 45 percent. In Bush’s first term, however, the Republican advantage was 61 percent to 39 percent — nearly three times as large.

In both the Clinton and Bush administrations, conservative journalists were far more likely to appear on the Sunday shows than were progressive journalists. In Clinton’s second term, 61 percent of the ideologically identifiable journalists were conservative; in Bush’s first term, that figure rose to 69 percent.

In 1997 and 1998, the shows conducted more solo interviews with Democrats/progressives than with Republicans/conservatives. But in every year since, there have been more solo interviews with Republicans/conservatives.

The most frequent Sunday show guest during this nine-year period is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has appeared 124 times. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) has been the most frequent guest since 2003.

In every year examined by the study — 1997 - 2005 — more panels tilted right (a greater number of Republicans/conservatives than Democrats/progressives) than tilted left. In some years, there were two, three, or even four times as many right-titled panels as left-tilted panels.

Congressional opponents of the Iraq war were largely absent from the Sunday shows, particularly during the period just before the war began.

And what of journalists in general, as opposed to just the opinionists?

From Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting:

On select issues from corporate power and trade to Social Security and Medicare to health care and taxes, journalists are actually more conservative than the general public.

Journalists are mostly centrist in their political orientation.

The minority of journalists who do not identify with the “center” are more likely to identify with the “right” when it comes to economic issues and to identify with the “left” when it comes to social issues.

Demographics are a good indicator of bias, right? Here’s what FAIR found about that:

Male journalists (66%) outnumbered female journalists (34%) by about two-to-one.

89% of respondents were White, 5% Black, 3% Hispanic, 2% Asian, and 2% chose the category “other” when describing their race.

Only 5% of the respondents were not college graduates. 50% had bachelor’s degrees, 14% had some post-graduate training, and a full 31% had post-graduate degrees.

Only 5% of respondents reported annual household incomes under $50,000. 43% had household incomes between $50,000 and $99,999; 21% were between $100,000 and $149,999; 17% were between $150,000 and $199,999; and 14% had household incomes of $200,000 or more.

So, whether we are looking at the opinionists or the journalists, we see that they are not only not any more liberal than the general public, but in fact are to the Right on the most pressing issues of the day.

Read the studies in the links. They are well done, fair, and sources and methodologies are all there for you to see.

It’s time we put this silly myth to bed.

JMJ

Republicession (How the GOP Caused the Next Recession, and All the Others)

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

Republican pundits often refer to the last recession as the Clinton Recession. They have a point, but only to a point. Clinton and the Republican Hill did not act to rein in the Tech speculators and their enabling lenders. Scams, Enron et al, abounded in the economic Wild West of a lawless regulatory vacuum. True, Clinton did not act, but neither did the Republican congress - the people who actually make laws and regulations. The irony of the label “Clinton Recession” is that certainly the Rightwing would not endorse anything Clinton or the congress could have done to avert it.

When Ronald Reagan entered the White House in 1981, on a “government is the problem” platform, he ushered in an era of supply-side economics with all the tax cuts, deregulation, loose credit markets, and deficit spending that go with it. So, with Reagan, Greenspan, and a short-lived GOP Senate at the helm, the economy seemed to hum along until 1987. Then came the S&L Crisis, the real estate crash, and a stock market crash with precedents eerily similar to the stock market of the more recent past. Does any of this sound familiar?

Just as it took the Democrats forty years to screw up and lose the majority in the congress whilst if took the GOP all of twelve to do the same, it took the GOP all of five years to bring the country back to an economic condition we haven’t seen in twenty years. GOP bankruptcy “reform” paired with unregulated investment schemes gave lenders enough rope to hang borrowers, taxpayers, consumers, employees, the dollar, and thus the entire economy. It’s beginning too look like 1987 all over again.

While it is difficult to predict recessions, the “deja-vu all over again” feeling is hard to dismiss. Current indicators almost mirror the 2000 and 1987 recession precursors, even more so the ‘87. Rightwing pundits and pols are oft heard decrying “negative nabobs,” insisting that one can “talk down” or “talk up” the economy, but in reality, confidence is usually based on conditions on the ground and not the hot air from above. Given the massive layoffs in the home construction sector, the ground is pretty clear to behold. Laizzez-Faire government most always plays out this way, historically - Boom and Bust. Stable economies, though lacking in the creation of multitudes of millionaires, are the products of responsible stewardship, just like anything else in life. There is a rational relationship in the number of millionaires to the number of poor, and the poor are an exponential product of the former. We may have more millionaires than ever before, but where are the poor? Perhaps their numbers are overdue. That’s a market “correction” of another kind entirely. That’s a depression. If things are as unbalanced as they seem, this next “recession” could look more like 1929 than 1987.

JMJ


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